Looking for one more gift idea? Don’t turn the page on a book

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Check, check and check.

That sums up pretty much what you’ve been doing for the past few weeks: writing out checks, checking your plastic balance and checking your list – twice.

But, inevitably, there’s someone on there to whom you just don’t know what to give. Or there’s one person missing on the list, usually YOU (can’t forget a gift for you, can you?)

I’ll bet I can help, though. Here are Terri’s Top Five Six Bunch of Book Picks – EVER. See if one of them won’t be the right gift…

While this list is in no certain order, I can safely say that “Salvation on Sand Mountain” by Denis Covington is probably my favorite book of all time.

Published over 25 years ago, this is the true story of a journalist who accepts an assignment that seems particularly fascinating: he’s sent to write about snake-handling churches in the Appalachia Mountains; in particular, he’s to investigate a murder charge in which a certain preacher forced his wife’s hand into a cage full of rattlers.

As you might expect, the church members close ranks. Covington (the journalist) realizes that the only way he can get them to trust him is to join the church. What happens is nothing less than astoundingly brilliant.

Be warned that the first 40 pages or so are slow. They’re there to set the stage. Get past that, though, and you’ll rave about this book for 25 years, too…

Excuse me as I geek out a little: “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman came out some time ago, and it’s still blowing my mind.

Here, Weisman asks what might happen if humans – poof! – suddenly disappeared. How would the world cope/ urn out?  And then he answers the question: very well, thank you. Most homes would be reclaimed within a century. Barns and sheds in less time. Cities would crumble, wildlife would abound.

And then he asks if humans could, possibly, return to where we are now?  The answer and its possibilities are for deep thinkers, but not just for geeks.

Everybody raves over Maurice Sendak’s book about Wild Things, but what is, perhaps, his least-noticed book is, in my library, one of his best. “Outside Over There” is the story of Ida, whose father goes to sea, leaving her with Mama and a new baby sister. But beware, Papa says, because the goblins could take the baby. When they do, Ida vows to save her sister.

The story in this book, written in a lovely, jerky rhyme, is only half the appeal. Sendak’s illustrations are soft and cozy, lulling us (and our resident 3-to-7-year-olds) past the horror of the goblins. Yes, it’s a happy tale in the end, and worth having on your shelf no matter how old you are.

In a normal year, I read about 325 books, give or take, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget reading “So You Call Yourself a Man” by Carl Weber.

It’s a novel about a church-going man who’s married to the love of his life – but he can’t stop himself from having an affair with the church’s sassy, gorgeous choir director.  That’s the story in a nutshell, but the book is raucous, wild, funny, has a little profanity (be warned!) and that’s all I can tell you because if I said any more, it would totally ruin your experience and enjoyment of this book.

Just go read it. Just go.

And finally, “One Good Dog” by Susan Wilson is my last pick – but surely not my least.

It’s the story of a man who’s on top of the world. He has everything: a beautiful wife, a lovely daughter, several homes, cars… and then he snaps, and loses it all.

Across town from the shabby apartment that the man leases is a dog that lives in a basement. His entire life is violence; he’s a fighting dog, and he’s heard that there’s a gentler world outside of the basement.

A man who had everything and loses it. A dog that had nothing but wants more. Together, this is a First-Class winner of a book, especially for dog lovers, but really – for anybody who wants a smart, wonderfully emotional read.

Oh, wait.

Can I just add “Emily and Einstein” by Linda Francis Lee (another dog novel)? Or “Lullaby” by Chuck Palahniuk (a totally subversive read!). Or “Goat Mountain” by David Vann (the beginning will astound you). Or “If There Be Dragons” by James Owen (a book to share with your Rowling fan). Or “Chasing the Wolf” by Nathan Singer (a quick-quick read that will subtly stick with you for days), or “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen, or “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, or “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehayne (best in audio!!) And then there’s pretty much any book by Danielle Ofri (who is a doctor, and dang near a poet).  And Patricia Harman… and… and… and…

Okay, let’s just admit it: there are a lot of good books out there to get or to give. If the above Top Picks don’t pique your interest, throw yourself at the mercy of your local bookseller; he or she is devoted to finding your new favorite.

Happy Book Hunting and Season’s Readings!

Editor’s note: Read Terri Schlichenmeyer’s weekly column, “The Bookworm Sez,” in our online edition, www.mesquitelocalnews.com

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